Q. My 12-year-old daughter has very large bowel movements, so large, in fact, that she quite often plugs the toilet. They are hard and dry. She has no other health problems.

She eats a relatively well-balanced diet with lots of fruit and some veggies, but, of course, some junk food as well. She drinks water, juice and maybe a couple of pops a week. She is very active.

Her doctor suggested a teaspoon of Milk of Magnesia (MOM) a day. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The label says not to take it more than two weeks and I am becoming concerned. I finally got her to tell me that she was holding her BMs in. I told her that if she stopped holding them, we could stop the MOM, and her problem would go away.

She has now assured me that she has stopped holding them in and we stopped the MOM, but the problem isn’t gone. Do you have any suggestions? I don’t like the thought of her taking MOM and becoming dependent on laxatives for the rest of her life.

A. If your daughter develops a laxative habit now, it could set her up for further problems with constipation later in life. Here are some alternatives: Ask her to drink a bit more water every day. A cool water bottle for her backpack might help. Pack more whole-grain fiber into her diet, perhaps with bran cereal or a bran muffin for breakfast.

Believe it or not, sugarless gum could be part of the solution. The sweeteners in them (mannitol, sorbitol) have a mild laxative action. Your daughter is likely to find gum a lot more enjoyable than Milk of Magnesia.

You will find lots more useful information in our Guide to Constipation and Digestive Disorders for more details and a tasty dynamite bran muffin recipe. Anyone else who would like to download these guides can click on the links. The cost is $2.00. When all else fails there is “Power Pudding” which nurses have been recommending for decades to help patients overcome constipation.

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  1. chrissy
    california
    Reply

    This is a remedy that really works: Take stool softeners one about an hour to two hours after breakfast, do the same thing for lunch and take the last one at bed time and everything should come out alright. Good luck.

  2. Florence Mills
    Cocoa, Fl
    Reply

    I am 98 years old and have had a constipation problem most of my life. Many things I had tried did not help very much until my daughter told me of Polyethylene Glycol 3350 NF powder (generic of Miralax). In all of my life I had never had such easy bowel movements, every day, as I have had with this. Also, my doctor said that it would not harm me to keep taking it every day

  3. PooHarder
    North Carolina
    Reply

    I’m on morphine, and have started having the biggest, and hardest bowel movements ever. I have to flush multiple times, and it still clogs the toilet 60% of the time. Thankfully, I live in a moderately old house, so the toilets aren’t the water saver kind.

    I bleed because they are so hard and large. Before a BM, I get the worst cramps, and turn deathly white according to my family. I do have IBS, and have tried eliminating gluten, dairy, etc to see if it was an allergy. No luck there.

    I keep a wire hanger by the toilets to break down the stools, but clogging is still inevitable. I don’t want to give up my pain medicine, but these XXXXXL bowel movements that cause bleeding (sometimes I have to wear a pad because bleeding is so bad).

    I drink about one and a half 64 ounce mugs of water daily, eat pretty much vegetarian, but not vegan. I take multi vitamins, fiber pills, and stool softeners to try to help, but they really don’t. MOM, Ducolax, Merilax, and such don’t help. I’ve even tried some bowel cleansers, but it just made the BMs even more clay like, more smelly, and oddly colored. I’m 40 years old, no kids, pretty healthy other than arthritis, and work out four days a week.

    Any suggestions?

  4. jm
    Reply

    We have terrible old plumbing & the clogging problem. What works for us is to squirt some blue Dawn original dish washing liquid in the toilet & let it sit a few minutes before flushing. Also flush paper separately & only use one ply paper. The nice cushy soft 2 ply toilet paper causes major clogs.

  5. jm
    Reply

    We have terrible old plumbing & the clogging problem. What works for us is to squirt some blue Dawn original dish washing liquid in the toilet & let it sit a few minutes before flushing. Also flush paper separately & only use one ply paper. The nice cushy soft 2 ply toilet paper causes major clogs.

  6. tdk
    Reply

    This will seem unpopular but if the toilet is getting clogged and the children are not constipated or having hard stools, I think you should have them squat on the floor in the bathroom and have the BM in a trash bag and toss it out like it was a dirty disposable diaper. Also, squatting is the best way to have complete and easy BMs. Just a pragmatic solution seems to me.

  7. blb
    Reply

    It’s not constipation. honestly I have it too. Even if it takes three days to pass it’s more likely caused by the fear of going than by constipation. I go every day, I would like to consider myself a delicate lady otherwise but, no. Things like colace and milk of magnesia add bulk. They’re designed to add moisture to the stool but all that does is swell them up. Fiber is also a lost cause. My diet consists mostly of kale, spinach and other vegetables and fruits, tofu and whole grains. The doctors don’t seem to think it’s a problem and they always dismiss it. I have been very persistent. I’ve heard “modern plumbing is just not designed to accommodate a healthy bowel movement.” A. it’s not healthy and B. shut up.
    It’s painful, it’s awful and it has little to do with diet. I’ve been diagnosed with IBS but the more I look into it the less I believe that’s really whats going on. It doesn’t fluctuate back and forth – its always huge and painful. I’ve read that it has to do with something stripping the bacteria from the walls of your colon. I suspect it might be related to gluten- that’s the only thing I haven’t tried. I suspect a low starch diet might help and that’s my next course of action.
    My daughter has this problem too and it’s heart wrenching. I honestly have no words for what it’s like – its ridiculous. One thing I know for sure though is that nobody can tell me to add more fiber to my diet. That’s been done and laxatives might be a step in the completely wrong direction if she’s anything like me.

  8. tsmbsl
    Reply

    PLEASE, I am suffering from not having regular bowel movement, nothing, very, very little, just water, air pass when I go to toilet. I have this problem for the last 35 years now I am 62 I had done so many endoscopy and colonoscopy tests.
    Colonoscopy test was normal but endoscopy test shows gastric wounds in the stomach. I took treatments for gastric problem for so many years, but still I have bowl movement problem, it is worse now.
    I do daily exercise, drink lot and lot of water, eat lot of fruits and vegetables and no meat and at all. I am desperate now. So many doctors and so much of medicines… laxative medicines like DULCOLAX has no any result..2, 3, 4, or even more tablets are not answering..horrible, desperate.
    Please advise me very sincerely a personal advice with a proper medicine and a laxative tablet for me to use daily, will be very highly appreciated
    Thank you very much
    Appreciating you help
    tsmbls

  9. Marcus
    Reply

    I have the same issue of bowel movements that are so large they always clog the toilet–but it happens to me daily. I don’t think I have an issue with constipation. The bowel movements have been like this for a few years now, both when I was eating gluten and after I stopped–no change. I have no pain or difficulty passing the stools, in fact they come out very quickly. I do have POTS (Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome) and wonder if it could be related to that because before a bowel movement I start to get a faster heart rate and feel anxious, as well as during, and after the bowel movement, and afterward it takes me a while to catch my breath. It’s no wonder as I am sometimes losing about 3-4 lbs per bowel movement (based on weighing myself before and after).
    If I were to guess the length it seems like they can be about two feet and obviously very wide. They are formed but not compacted. The thing is that I don’t eat that much and I have a fairly healthy weight. My diet is vegetarian and almost vegan in reality, and I do now eat gluten free because of some labs that showed I may have celiac (although a follow-up test during a gluten challenge was negative, but I do have family members with celiac so I am playing it safe, and it does seem to reduce my stomach upset and acid reflux).
    I do have symptoms that cause me to spend a lot of time lying in bed, which could be a factor. I also take Paxil, Ativan, and a small dose of Seroquel. I’ve seen a gastroenterologist who had no suggestions except to flush the toilet in the middle of the BM! His advice was more plumbing oriented than health oriented!
    I am concerned that these bowel movements will stretch out my intestines which can cause cancer through wear-and-tear, as I have read on an alternative health web-site. I am not sure what mainstream doctors think about that. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be a subject they have studied based on my interactions with my gastroenterologist.

  10. Rachel
    Reply

    I’m a 28 year old mom of one. Over the last year, I have had issues with endometriosis and also began to have severe cramping right before a bowel movement and very large stools that clogged the toilet 90% of the time. I eat healthy and drink nothing but water and maybe one cup of coffee a day. I thought the two were related and so focused on some natural remedies for the endo thinking that would help. The endo pain improved but I still had the severe cramping and the large stools.
    I went through a liver cleanse with my doctor and realized the during that 21 day cleanse, the cramping disappeared! Then I went about the process of figuring out what was in my diet that could be the culprit.
    I returned to my regular diet but eliminated gluten for 2 weeks to see if it was to blame. No change. I did the same experiment with dairy…the results were AMAZING!!!!! No more cramping, no more large stools. Dairy was absolutely the culprit for me.
    Everyone is different but a food allergy could definitely cause this. Try eliminated things from you diet in two week intervals. It can take a while to clear all of it out of you system so go the full two weeks to be sure. For me, anytime I slip up and have too much dairy, I feel my symptoms return about 20 hours later after it has gone through my system. I couldn’t be more thankful that I found the answer to my problem. Hope this helps someone else too!!

  11. Anonymous
    Reply

    keep a brush with a 1 foot handle on it & just break up the large bowel movement & don’t let the movement go down all at once when you flush. Keep pushing it around while it is being flushed down.

  12. charles
    Reply

    What most people do not realize is that the human body innards DO have natural variations. Even with the right diet and exercise, this does not change the fact that some have a naturally larger bowel than others. On rare occasions there are some that can even pass extremely large stool without a hitch. Modern toilet designers never take this natural variable fact into account and neither do most doctors. So, if your diet and exercise is fine and physically you can easily pass a large stool with predictable regularity and without feeling constipated, then just break it up and flush. Don’t hold it in. That is bad for your health. Prior to the invention of the modern toilet I am sure that this was much less of an issue. This despite the fact that prior to our current sedate society of today we did far more physical work and as such required a lot more food intake than today.

  13. Kelly H.
    Reply

    When my son was small, his bms were as big around as a can of vegetables, no exaggeration! We had to keep a special trash can by the toilet to store a paint stir stick or wire coat hanger, something to use to break up the mass so it would flush. His Dad would make comments about the toilet clogs and it embarrassed our son. After all, he couldn’t help the size of his bm!! And he was too young to use a plunger correctly, so ‘Dad’ usually had to clear the downstairs toilet. He was very heartless and rude about it…I hated that!

  14. DJ
    Reply

    I’m having the clogging problem with my 12 yo daughter. She’s always had large poops. But now she’s grown and so have the turds! We’ll work on the fiber more, but I’m thinking a new stronger flushing toilet will save a lot of grief.

  15. Angie
    Reply

    I am having this problem right now with my 11 year old son. A few differences though. He eats TONS of fruit and veggies. Drinks a gallon of water a day, AT LEAST! His bowel movements stop up the commode EVERY time he goes! They are not hard, just HUGE! 8+ inches long and as big around as an apple. He can’t ‘courtesy flush’ because it’s only 1 turd ! HELP PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. Angie
    Reply

    I am having this problem right now with my 11 year old son. A few differences though. He eats TONS of fruit and veggies. Drinks a gallon of water a day, AT LEAST! His bowel movements stop up the commode EVERY time he goes! They are not hard, just HUGE! 8+ inches long and as big around as an apple. He can’t ‘courtesy flush’ because it’s only 1 turd ! HELP PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. rose
    Reply

    I have struggled with this same problem off and on for a long time, however I recently discovered a major reason for it. I never really had significant problems until I became lactose intolerant. And it’s not only products with milk/lactose that will cause it, I’ve noticed that after developing it my digestive system is much more sensitive to food in general. It addition, I’ve found that gluten products will aggravate it even more…this observation isn’t just from me personally but something I’ve discovered is common with many of my friends. My biggest suggestion would be to try for a few weeks completely eliminating dairy and gluten products, while upping the amount of water you drink every day. When I adhere to this diet, I have nearly NO problems.

  18. TLM
    Reply

    my daughter has been suffering from soiling for years. Then it increased to wetting, so much so that she was wearing pullups to school at the age of 8. We went to doctors, dieticians, eliminated foods etc. nothing worked. We were told it was in her mind, that it was behavioural, Hirschsprungs was even mentioned, that she was still toilet training etc. She used to regularly complain of feeling sick or have frequent tummy upsets.
    Finally we found a doctor who diagnosed her with a long/extended colon. She has inherited it form her father’s side. We have done several bowel cleanses, she needs to avoid insoluble fibre and eat more soluble fibre. No apples, bananas, potatoes etc and more fruit with juice, lentils etc. She is probably always going to be on a laxative but it must be a water based one such as osmolax. The insoluble fibres make it much worse for her. She has had to learn all over again the feelings of needing to go because the nerves and the muscles were so badly damaged. Eventually her bladder will heal as well. Sometimes we spend ages in toilets out or at home. We always carry wipes and spare undies. It gets her down sometimes.
    We have used a psychologist to help with coping with the embarrassment etc. She will always have this problem and always be on a laxative. But we are learning to read the signs and she is getting to know her body. We are getting somewhere, but still a long way to go. Got to keep positive and work together. Our GI has told us to use more doses of laxative when we notice the signs that show she is getting constipated again.
    We have frequent trips to the doctor and specialist to monitor. but it is nice to know that someone diagnosed her problem and is prepared to see us through, has helped us to make a plan and follows up. You need to find a really good doctor and persist in getting to a decent specialist. We learnt that not all specialists are any good for us. Keep trying until you get answers, even if they label you a nuisance mum like me. The end result is worth it.

  19. jean
    Reply

    I was never constipated until starting taking lipitor it also creates for me a lot of gas and very hard poop. I have not pooped now in almost four days.

  20. B. J.
    Reply

    I’ve had this problem (constipation) for 4 years, but it is caused by a pain medication I take (hydrocodone). I can’t stop the medication. Recently, I’ve had problems with the clogging of my toilet in my apartment. It’s extremely embarrassing. I don’t know what to do! I welcome any comments.

  21. Melanie F.
    Reply

    My son has had this problem since he was 4. He is almost 9 now. A teacher told him that he was taking too long in the bathroom. From that point on, he has been holding it in. He even holds it in at home now.
    His stools are HUGE. They clog the toilet, too, which is very embarrising for him. He usually comes home from school with a small stool stain on his underwear from holding it in.
    Encopresis is the only “diagnosis” that fit our situation, and it is not one that will go away any time soon. We have tried all of the stool softners, fiber etc… none of which has helped.
    Now we just try to cope and help keep him clean. I worry more about the pain of the large bowel movements. He won’t say whether they hurt or not. It just breaks my heart to see him go through this and feel so helpless. Just be patient with your daughter. She needs a lot of patience and understanding….and maybe some dietary changes.

  22. skeet
    Reply

    My son is 15 and has had this problem since he turned 2. The Dr told us he would grow into it which he has not. He to along with a lot of other children hold their BMs until they get home. As for the over usage toilet paper clogging the toilet. once a child has experienced that size they don’t want to use a lot of paper

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